Friday, October 15, 2010

Surat Thani constituencies

As there will be yet another by-election, this time in constituency one of Surat Thani, I'll use the chance to cover the constituency in more detail, same as I did for the Bangkok constituency 6 in July. But don't worry, I won't do like this for every future by-election, I do it because Surat Thani is the province I research in most detail, and also because this election will again get a larger focus due to the candidate. Somewhat surprising, the Democrat Party nominated one of the political heavyweights Suthep Thaugsuban (นายสุเทพ เทือกสุบรรณ), as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the enforcement of the emergency decree, as their candidate.

What makes this decision more notable is the fact that Suthep has to resign as Deputy PM in order to be able to stand for election, so it is surprising he so willingly moves to be a less prestigious simple Member of Parliament instead of being a member of the Cabinet. One reason I could imagine is that he expects the current government to break apart soon and therefore goes to the lower but more save job. Or he is preparing for the pending party dissolution as suggested by this Bangkok Post opinion article? At least it shows Thai politics will continue to be interesting to watch...

Constituencies 2007
But the actual topic I want to write about is the constituency itself. With the 2007 constitution the constituencies were returned to be multi-seated, so the province Surat Thani has been again divided into 2 constituencies with 3 seats each. As defined in the Royal Gazette announcement (Page 14 of the PDF), the two constituencies cover only whole districts with one exception, the subdistrict Thung Luang of Wiang Sa district is part of constituency two, the other parts of the district belong to constituency one. The map to the right shows their extent in detail - constituency one covers the east of the province including the capital district, whereas constituency two covers the western half.

Interestingly, this is not the first by-election for Constituency One in the parliamentary term. The original result of the 2007 election had Suthep Thaugsuban (นายสุเทพ เทือกสุบรรณ), Praphon Ninwatcharamanee (นายประพนธ์ นิลวัชรมณี) and Chumphon Kanchana (นายชุมพล กาญจนะ) as the winning candidates, all for the Democratic Party.

Suthep resigned his parliamentary seat in July 2009, when a court ruling was imminent which probably would have disqualified him from being a MP. In the by-election which followed his brother Thani Thaugsuban (นายธานี เทือกสุบรรณ) - who was just few months before disqualified as being the chairman of the Provincial Administrative Organization.

Constituencies 1976, 1979, 1983, 1996
Going back into the past, the outline of the constituencies changed several times in order to keep the electoral weight of each vote roughly equal. Until 1974 the whole province was a single constituency, due to a smaller parliament as well as a lower relative population in the province. 1976 was the first time the province was split into two constituencies, constituency one covering the east and number two the less populated west. First defined in 1976 [Gazette], they were kept same in constituency definitions 1979 [Gazette], 1983 [Gazette] and 1996 [Gazette]. The only difference in 1996 was that both constituencies were sending three MPs, whereas in the years before both send two.

Constituencies 1995
In 1995 [Gazette], Surat Thani sent five MPs to the parliament, thus the constituencies had to get a different electoral multiplicity. Constituency One was made the three-seated and thus became larger than in the previous elections, and correspondingly constituency two sent just two MPs and became smaller.

Constituencies 1998
Finally, in 1998 the single seated constituencies were defined [Gazette], which split Surat Thani into 6 constituencies. The population numbers did not fit well enough to use only full districts, so three of the districts were split between two constituencies - Kanchanadit, Khirirat Nikhom and Khian Sa. Only constituency One covered a whole district, the Mueang district.

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